Monday, June 23, 2008

Good Behaviour

Wasn't that match between Roger Federer and Dominik Hrbaty just the loveliest thing you ever saw? I don't know if I've ever seen a tennis match that was... well, nicer. And not because Federer won and won so easily - though that was, of course, very nice! What was the loveliest was the way that Federer and Hrbaty clearly respected and liked each other. At the risk of sounding stereotypically Australian, it was a match between mates, and it was wonderful to watch.
I've never seen a match where the players sat next to each other on the changeover like that. I mean, sure, in Davis Cup you've got the bench, but that's different, because you sit with your teammates. These were opponents, in Wimbledon - the holy grail of tennis. And yet they could still remain friends, even though they were competing for such a prize.
Just another one of the things I like about Federer (and now Hrbaty!) Sportsmanship. The world of sport would be a better place if more people would take his example. Which is why it's so good that Federer has been elected to the new Player's Council (along with Nadal and Djokovic.) I hope his influence can become even more pervasive.
On the actual match - how good was Hrbaty's hot dog shot?! And Federer's insane backhand smash volley?! Grass is so so good for producing a highlights reel, I tell you!
Speaking of great tennis statesmen, I'd just like to devote a few sentences to the oldest player in the field, who has just announced that he will retire this season. Jonas Bjorkman, I salute you. He has played and played well for his whole career. His singles and doubles careers are both very distinguished. But more than that, Bjorkman has always been a gentleman tennis player. He has always been a great sport, he has won with humility and lost with grace, and there is little in sport more important than a good attitude. So, vale Jonas. You will be missed.
There were some other great matches yesterday. The one I saw the most of (inevitably, being in Australia) was the Hewitt-Haase match, and wasn't it a barnburner?! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really like the way Haase plays. He's only young, so he has lots of time to improve. If he can stop panicking on his forehand he will be something else. He has beautiful hands at the net, which is unusual for a player as tall as he is. He gets down to the ball really well - and he is not afraid to come in, which is great to see. Pat Rafter was on the tennis last night bemoaning the lack of true serve-and-volley players, and I agree with him. There will always be some room in tennis, especially in grass court tennis, for serve-and-volley. And net play in grass is just so lovely to watch, from an aesthetic perspective... yeah, this was a great match.
Hewitt played pretty well too. He's not the Hewitt that once he was, but he played pretty respectably. His hip seemed to be holding up okay, and he has much better run now that he's got passed this Haase test. (But give Haase a few years... yeah, you've heard it before.) I don't think he'll have too many problems with Montanes, Montanes being pretty much a claycourter. That'd give him either Bolelli or Gonzalez in the next round... Gonzalez could be a stumbling block. I've never seen Gonzalez play on grass, though, so it could be a tight match.
One of the commentators said something intelligent last night (shock horror!) They pointed out that Hewitt's game is based around counterpunching, and now that people don't come to the net so much, it's much harder for him to enforce his game. I thought that was a really interesting point. The game has evolved, and to an extent, Lleyton Hewitt has been left behind.
Only two major upsets yesterday - much as I wish it had been three, Djokovic got through, though he looked a bit scratchy. Ivo Karlovic went out - is this an object lesson in not playing a tournament the week before Wimbledon? Who can tell? (Ferru won, so this thesis is obviously flawed... though his opponent did retire. Hmmm...) More shockingly, David Nalbandian (Headbandian) went out. That's two early exits now - second round to Chardy at Roland Garros, and now first round to Frank Dancevic. Now, Dancevic isn't a bad player, but he's no Headbandian. It looks like LameDave has been back in action. Not being a Headbandian fan, I find it difficult to be sad, but it is disappointing. That opens this little section of the draw right up, though, because Karlovic was in it too... the next highest seed is Baghdatis. Hmmm. That could be veeeeeery interesting. I'd like to see Baghdatis get through to a semi against Federer. Obviously Djokovic stands in the way... but I have a tiny, baby feeling that his next opponent might give him a run for his money. Who is it, you asked?
Marat Safin.
If Marat plays his true Maratski tennis, he is going to blow Djokovic away. Unfortunately, Marat hates grass. So this could be... um... interesting. That's a safe assessment.
I was glad to see Mario Ancic get through as well, though his match against Llodra did not quite go the six hours I predicted, as Llodra retired. Oh well. Some of the other matches I said would be interesting totally were! Hewitt/Haase, for one, Berdych/Korolev, for another. And the Bellucci/Kunitsyn clash was definitely intriguing - I was very glad to see Bellucci win. I'm keeping my eye on him. I really like his game. He's up against Simon Stadler next, who upset Karlovic, and I think Thomaz stands a good chance.
It struck me after writing that monstrous preview yesterday that I did that thing I do wherein I totally forget the existence of women's tennis. Oops. Let's have a quick look at it now. There were a couple of upsets yesterday, the biggest one being Patty Schnyder, who got beaten by that wonderful little Aussie giant-killer Casey Dellacqua. I'm not, as you know if you've read me blog before, very patriotic when it comes to tennis, but I think Casey is the bee's knees. She has really risen to the occasion in Slams this year. Actually, she beat Schnyder before, didn't she? Australian Open, second round, if memory serves. So well done, Casey.
My French favourite, Alize Cornet, also went out - though the player she went out to, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, is pretty intriguing. They were juniors together, and they were both up there at the top. Cornet has actualised it better in the WTA draw than Pavlyuchenkova has so far - but is that about to change?
Virginie Razzano, Maria Kirilenko and Dominika Cibulkova also went out. Interestingly, not long after Cibulkova lost, her boyfriend Gael Monfils held a press conference withdrawing from the tournament. Draw your own conclusions from that. Meanwhile, has anyone else noticed how Gael Monfils looks sort of possessed all the time? It's very bizarre.
Other than that, it was pretty standard. Ivanovic was impressive. Agnes Szavay was also - I think her time might be coming to make a big run at a Slam. Kuznetsova was scratchy, much as she was in Eastbourne last week. She'd better pick up her game if she wants to go deep. Sam Stosur also had a great win, and I think she stands a good chance of taking out Vaidisova in the next round - which might give her a third round clash with Dellacqua, which would be intriguing.
So, if I had to pick my semifinalists from the women, I would say Ivanovic (dead cert), Serena Williams (with Agnieszka Radwanska also a possibility,) Sharapova (or Safina) and either Venus Williams or Jankovic, depending on how well Venus plays. There are, of course, some dark horses lurking about - Agnes Szavay for one, and even Dellacqua could make a good run, but those are the four... or seven, I guess! that I'd be looking for.
Wimbledon Results - Day #1
Men's Draw
Roger Federer def. Dominik Hrbaty, 6-3 6-2 6-2
Novak Djokovic def. Michael Berrer, 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-0
Lleyton Hewitt def. Robin Haase, 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 6-2
Frank Dancevic def. David Nalbandian, 6-4 6-2 6-4
David Ferrer def. Sergiy Stakhovsky, 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 1-3 retired
Marcos Baghdatis def. Steve Darcis, 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-3
Fernando Gonzalez def. Robby Ginepri, 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-5
Mario Ancic def. Michael Llodra, 6-4 7-6 (9-7) 2-0 retired
Igor Andreev def. Jiri Vanek, 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-2
Thomaz Bellucci def. Igor Kunitsyn, 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-2
Olivier Rochus def. Dudi Sela, 6-4 7-5 6-4
Marc Gicquel def. Kei Nishikori, 4-6 7-5 retired
Thomas Johansson def. Vince Spadea, 6-7 (8-10) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 6-3
Florent Serra def. Yen-hsun Lu, 6-4 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-3
Feliciano Lopez def. Brian Dabul, 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-3 6-4
Albert Montanes def. Carlos Berlocq, 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-4
Victor Hanescu def. Alejandro Falla, 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-0 6-4
Philipp Petzschner def. Hyung-taik Lee, 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-4 retired
Roko Karanusic def. Luis Horna, 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 6-1
Simone Bolelli def. Alex Bogdanovic, 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4)
Marat Safin def. Fabio Fognini, 6-1 6-2 7-6 (7-3)
Tomas Berdych def. Evgeny Korolev, 4-6 6-1 6-4 3-6 7-5
Stanislas Wawrinka def. Marcos Daniel, 6-3 6-2 7-5
Bobby Reynolds def. Filippo Volandri, 6-2 6-2 retired
Andreas Seppi def. Tobias Kamke, 5-7 6-3 6-2 6-4
Juan Martin del Potro def. Pavel Snobel, 6-4 6-2 6-3
Robin Soderling def. Kevin Kim, 7-5 0-6 6-3 6-4
Fernando Verdasco def. Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-4 6-3 6-2
Ilia Bozoljac def. Chris Guccione, 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-3
Juan Carlos Ferrero def. Sam Querrey, 2-6 6-4 6-4 6-4
Mischa Zverev def. Alexander Peya, 6-3 6-4 6-4
Simon Stadler def. Ivo Karlovic, 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 7-5
Women's Draw
Ana Ivanovic def. Rossana de los Rios, 6-1 6-2
Agnieszka Radwanska def. Iveta Benesova, 6-3 6-0
Marion Bartoli def. Sabine Lisicki, 6-2 6-4
Serena Williams def. Kaia Kanepi, 7-5 6-3
Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Mathilde Johansson, 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 6-3
Amelie Mauresmo def. Ashley Harkleroad, 6-4 6-3
Samantha Stosur def. Ioana Raluca Olaru, 6-2 6-2
Anna Chakvetadze def. Stephanie Dubois, 2-6 6-1 8-6
Elena Vesnina def. Nuria Llagostera Vives, 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-4
Pauline Parmentier def. Akgul Amanmuradova, 7-5 6-4
Evgeniya Rodina def. Virginie Razzano, 0-6 6-2 6-4
Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Yan Zi, 6-3 6-0
Casey Dellacqua def. Patty Schnyder, 6-4 3-6 6-1
Virginia Ruano Pascual def. Milagros Seguera, 6-1 6-4
Tatiana Perebiynis def. Petra Kvitova, 6-4 0-6 6-4
Urszula Radwanska def. Klara Zakopalova, 6-1 6-4
Edina Gallovits def. Yvonne Meusburger, 6-1 6-2
Li Na def. Anastasia Rodionova, 3-6 6-0 6-1
Elena Baltacha def. Angelique Kerber, 6-3 2-6 7-5
Nathalie Dechy def. Yuan Meng, 6-7 (7-9) 6-3 6-0
Jie Zheng def. Dominika Cibulkova, 6-4 6-3
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Alize Cornet, 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4)
Marta Domachowska def. Jill Craybas, 6-1 3-6 6-4
Bethanie Mattek def. Severine Bremond, 5-7 6-0 6-1
Agnes Szavay def. Tathiana Garbin, 6-1 6-3
Kateryna Bondarenko def. Rika Fujiwara, 1-6 6-4 6-3
Alona Bondarenko def. Melanie South, 6-3 6-7 (1-7) 6-4
Vera Dushevina def. Maria Kirilenko, 6-3 6-3
Nicole Vaidisova def. Zuzana Ondraskova, 6-2 6-2
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova def. Camille Pin, 7-5 4-6 7-5

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